Daniel Donahoo (digital learning adviser): Screen time as a concept was introduced in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, a time when screens were just TVs. The way children can interact with screens today is so different from when that advice was first put forward. Children can interact. Children can create. Children can take their own photos. It can give them agency to do so much.
Saying that we’re moving beyond screen time is not saying that children should have access to technology and to use screens all the time. It’s saying that, to build healthy relationships with how our young children use technology, we need to move beyond the idea of just saying they can have time on the screen or off the screen.
So if a child asks, ‘Can I have some screen time?’ what you should respond to is, ‘What do you actually want to do? Do you want to watch something on television? Are you wanting to spend some time on my phone? Are you actually just bored and would you like me to come up with some other ideas about what you could do?’ and then see where that takes you. And then, as children grow and it becomes more sophisticated, if they say, ‘I would like to spend time on this app,’ or, ‘I want to play this computer game,’ you can then ask questions like, ‘Why do you want to do that? What’s your favourite thing about doing that? How do you know when you get sick of that? What’s that feel like?’ And in doing that we build the critical thinking skills and teach our children to have behaviours and ways of managing their technology use themselves rather than us just telling them, ‘Your hour’s up. Done.’